Hoey emerges as main challenger to Fisher in South Africa

Michael Hoey
Michael Hoey

Michael Hoey emerged as the main challenger to Ross Fisher heading into the final round of the Tshwane Open in South Africa.

Hoey carded a third round 69 on Saturday in wet conditions and moved to 13 under for the tournament, five shots behind England’s Fisher.

“If I got rid of the bogeys I would probably be leading alongside Ross,” said Hoey.

“I didn’t play my best today but I scored well and I chipped and putted really, really well.

“I am enjoying it. The greens are really good. The weather was a bit ‘Irish’ today which kind of suited me, it was tough conditions.”

Michael got off a bad start on Saturday, dropping a shot at the par four first but birdies at the fifth and sixth saw him make the turn in 35.

He dropped another at the par four 10th but bounced back with three birdies in a row. A third bogey followed at the par three 14th but that was offset by a final birdie on 15.

“The course was playing really long today. It’s the longest course in european tour history and it doesn’t really need cool, wet conditions. It needs the warm conditions that you normally get here at altitude

“I am not getting too far ahead of myself. There are a couple of potential disasters out there, so you really have to concentrate on taking one shot at a time.

“This course sets up well for Ross because he hits it so long so he will be hard to beat.”

Fisher was just one shot ahead at the halfway stage but a five-under-par 67 on Saturday gave him a considerable cushion heading into the final day.

Simon Dyson and Spain’s Carlos del Moral are a shot further back on 12 under, with Ireland’s Kevin Phelan in a seven-strong group another stroke adrift.

Fisher got off to a shaky start at Copperleaf with a bogey at the first, but birdied the second and third - both thanks to putts of around 25 feet - before scrambling a par on the fourth after finding a bunker off the tee.

The 33-year-old former Ryder Cup player found more sand on the par-three fifth and missed from four feet for par, but hit back in superb fashion with an approach to the sixth which finished just inches from the hole.

A carbon copy of that shot on the next gave the world number 82 another birdie and he holed from 12 feet on the ninth as well to reach the turn in 33.

Two more excellent iron shots on the 13th and 16th gave Fisher further birdies and put him in pole position for a fifth European Tour title, his last coming in the Irish Open in 2010.

“I didn’t get off to the best of starts on the first but then found my range on the second and third and that really got me settled in,” Fisher said.

“I hit it very close on six and seven after dropping one on five, so that was a nice bounce back and it felt like I played a lot better on the back nine. I missed a couple of make-able ones but I am not going to be sat here too unhappy with 67 in those conditions.

“Three rounds down, one to go. Five shots is a nice lead but a lead is never too big. I expect guys behind me to shoot good scores, so if I want to win I need to shoot something in the 60s, keep playing aggressive golf and making as many birdies as I can.”